A new study finds more than 40 percent of calls to the National Poison Data System about energy drinks involve children under age 6. In many cases, the children experienced abnormal heart rhythms or seizures, CNN reports.
Most parents were not aware that their children had consumed an energy drink, the article notes.
The nation's 55 poison centers received 5,156 calls about energy drink exposure between October 2010 and September 2013.
Lead researcher Dr. Steven Lipshultz of Wayne State University in Detroit said he believes the number of cases associated with energy drinks is greater than reported in the study, because some parents whose children get sick from the beverages go straight to the emergency room. "The reported data probably represent the tip of the iceberg," he said.
The findings were reported this week at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions.
Some energy drinks contain up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per can or bottle, compared to 100-150 milligrams in a typical cup of coffee, Lipshultz said in a news release. He noted that caffeine poisoning can occur at levels higher than 400 milligrams a day in adults; above 100 milligrams a day in teens; and at 2.5 milligrams per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight in children younger than 12.
Lipshultz said the government should require energy drink makers to list the amount of caffeine in the drinks. Currently, only nutrients must be listed in dietary information; caffeine is not listed since it is not a nutrient.
In March 2013 a group of health experts asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to restrict the amount of caffeine permitted in energy drinks. The group of physicians, public health experts and researchers wrote a letter to the FDA, saying the move is needed to protect children and teenagers from the potential risks of consuming large quantities of caffeine.